Rob Gray’s layup with a second left on the clock capped a 39-point night and sent the Houston Cougars to a 67-65 first round win over San Diego State Thursday night in Dallas.
Houston scored just 28 points after halftime, 22 of them came from Gray, who scored the Cougars final five points of the night as they advance in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1984, when Akeem Olajuwon led the school to the National Championship Game.
The lead changed hands six times in the game’s first six minutes, the sixth coming on a Galen Robinson Jr 3-pointer to give Houston a 12-11 lead. Two minutes later, Rob Gray connected on a 3-pointer of his own to build the Cougars lead to six, but San Diego State scored the next seven points to regain the lead, only to see Gray get it right back, starting a 6-0 run.
Malik Pope’s dunk ended that, but Houston scored the next six points to grow their lead to eight points, and the first half ended with the Cougars leading 39-29 thanks to Gray’s 3-pointer with 17 seconds left.
The lead grew to 13 early in the second half, but with the help of 22 free throw attempts, San Diego State chipped away at the lead. A pair of Gray free throws with 2:50 to play put the Cougars up six, though, that’s when things got exciting.
A Devin Watson jumper made it a four point game, and after Matt Mitchell split a pair of free throws, Watson tied the game with a 3-pointer with 1:06 left. Gray answered with a three of his own, but Watson tied the game with 31 seconds left, setting things up for Gray’s heroics.
San Diego State had a shot to win it, but Trey Kell’s heave at the buzzer hit off the rim.
Gray shot 12-of-25 from the field, 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point line, and 11-of-15 from the free throw line. He was the only Cougar to score in double figures.
Corey Davis Jr. and Devin Davis added nine points.
The Cougars will play for a spot in the Sweet 16 Saturday against Michigan.
Jalen McDaniels’ 18 points led the Aztecs.